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Feds seek formal extension of Microsoft antitrust deal

Judge asked to approve extra time for parts of landmark settlement critics say have been implemented too slowly.

The U.S. Department of Justice and Microsoft on Wednesday filed a formal application for a two-year extension of portions of their landmark antitrust settlement, with the possibility of stretching it until 2012.

The filing of the joint motion to a federal judge marks a largely procedural step. The government, with agreement from Microsoft, had already made its request for an extension known back in May.

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who approved the original consent decree in 2002, also indicated at the last periodic status conference with the parties that she would accept the changes, saying they appeared to be "the way to go" and prompted her to wonder why such a suggestion hadn't been raised earlier.

Under the proposed changes to the settlement, an expiration date of Nov. 12, 2009, would apply to provisions of the settlement relating to the Microsoft Communications Protocol Program (MCPP), which aims to help third-party developers in creating software that works with Windows through licensing access to protocols.

Microsoft would also be required, unless otherwise ordered by the court, to keep Robert Muglia, senior vice president for the company's server and tools unit, in charge of overseeing an ongoing rewrite of the technical documentation for MCPP licensees. Microsoft has taken heat in recent months from federal and state regulators and Judge Kollar-Kotelly, who accused the company of moving too slowly with that project. Muglia would have to be available to give the court periodic updates on the project's progress.

The remaining portions of the settlement, which relate to other licensing and middleware obligations, would expire, as scheduled, on Nov. 12, 2007. The government would have the "unilateral" ability to ask the court to extend the "surviving provisions" up to three more years. Microsoft has agreed not to oppose any such extensions.

The motion is likely to be addressed on Sept. 7, when parties are due back in Kollar-Kotelly's courtroom for their next status conference.